They had been in London for weeks, getting geared up and planning their first mission. Bucky suspected that Steve was also, as much as Steve was capable of such a thing, dragging his feet to make sure that his men were ready to go back into the field. To make sure Bucky was ready.
Steve hadn't said anything outright about thinking that Bucky needed more time to recuperate from what happened to him in that factory than just the time it took for the marks to fade from his skin. But he could see Steve watching, and he knew Steve would have noticed that every time they had a little privacy, a stray hour alone, Bucky avoided speaking of it, or of anything remotely serious.
How could he describe it? How could he ever tell Steve that he felt sometimes like it wasn't over, like Zola was still tinkering with him somehow, long after he'd escaped? How could he ever tell Steve that he felt like he would never again be the man he'd been before, that something about him had broken there in a way that would never heal?
What did it matter, anyway, when he could shoot his rifle just as straight, march just as far and fast as ever? What more did a soldier need?
That wasn't to say that their time alone was wasted; they had Steve's big new body to try out, like kids with a new toy. Steve was actually unmistakably bigger and stronger than Bucky was now. Steve could hold him up against a wall or down on a bed without even seeming to try.
There wasn't any need to pretend, now. There wasn't any need to play the games they used to play, to be anyone other than just themselves. Steve could be the boss of him with one hand tied behind his back--even the US Army knew it, jumping Steve straight to the rank of captain. They didn't have to have silly pet names and elaborate games anymore.
That was fine. That was better. Steve was happy now, healthy and strong, everything he always should have been. Everyone could see him now as the person who only Bucky had ever recognized before. Everyone called him Cap with genuine respect, and even awe. Of course he didn't need Bucky calling him Mister, and Bucky didn't need to call him that.
Bucky could call him Cap with the rest of the world; he was still the one slipping off to a hotel to meet Steve the night before they finally left for a real mission against Hydra. He was still Steve's best guy, no matter how much he had to watch Steve making eyes at Agent Carter. He didn't need anything more than that, anything more secret than perfectly ordinary run-of-the-mill sodomy.
It seemed like that was all it was going to be, at first. Steve was there already waiting for him, and as soon as the door was locked behind Bucky they were on each other. They kissed rough and frantic, the same as they would any time they had a chance at a few snatched moments of privacy.
Bucky reached for Steve's pristine uniform jacket to start getting him undressed, and Steve caught his wrist, just a little bit harder than necessary. Bucky's breath caught and he went still. If Steve wanted that, just to hold him down, that would--
Steve took a step back. "I, uh. There's something I've been wanting to give you. You didn't ask, and I didn't know if, maybe..."
There was something in his tone that made Bucky freeze, torn between anticipation and something he couldn't have named.
Steve reached into his jacket pocket and offered them on his palm, things Bucky had never expected to see again: Jamesy's favorite cat's eye shooter marble, a curling blue ribbon of Jemmie's, and a diaper pin.
Not just any diaper pin, of course. Steve had daubed the end of it with soft yellow paint to mark it out as the Baby's own, to make it properly visible no matter what it was pinned to to signify the Baby's presence.
Bucky thought of the way they played when he had that pin fastened to his shirt or at his hip--lying helpless and mute in Steve's arms.
He shuddered, thinking of that table he'd been strapped down on, of all his pleas and cries that might as well have been a baby's wail for all Zola acknowledged him.
Bucky snatched the pin from Steve's hand and saw Steve's eyes widen, eager and excited. He had to turn half away as he twisted the sides of the pin apart, bending the metal until it thinned and snapped. It took a minute, long enough for Steve to understand what he was doing, long enough for Bucky to realize that he could have just said no, or thrown the thing away.
But his hands kept twisting, furiously destroying the possibility of being helpless, wordless, defenseless.
When the pin was nothing but twisted, broken wires, the paint flaked off the yanked-open head, Bucky stalked to the window. He jerked it open and flung the pathetic remains out, not letting himself feel any twinge of regret at the loss. When he shut the window on it he turned back to Steve, who was watching him with the marble and ribbon still in his hand, his fingers curled protectively around them.
"War's no place for a baby, Steve," Bucky said, a little too harshly.
Steve's fingers curled in tighter, his hand drawing back against his chest. "Buck, we don't have to--you don't have to--"
Bucky shook his head.
He wanted it, was the thing. He did want it. He wanted to play the old game. Not that part, not that utter helplessness, but...
He reached out, brushing his fingers over the marble where Steve held it, but didn't pick it up. "I..."
He wanted it. He could feel himself folding down into smallness in his mind. He was already anticipating how it would feel to be Jamesy when Steve really was bigger and stronger, could hold his little boy friend like he really was small like that.
"If," Bucky said hesitantly. "Steve, would you..."
"Anything, Buck. Anything you need."
Bucky winced at just the idea of asking. He'd never had to tell Steve how to play it, never told him what to do or not do; Steve was in charge when they played, and Steve drew the lines. But Bucky couldn't make himself reach out and take the marble from Steve's hand, either.
"Would you just, even if he--if I--please, just," Bucky took a deep breath and closed his eyes, forcing the words out. "Just don't smack him, tonight? Even if--"
"Of course," Steve said, stepping in close. He curled one arm over the tops of Bucky's shoulders, tugging him closer. Bucky leaned into the shelter of Steve's arm, rested his forehead against Steve's jacket front. "Of course I won't. You wouldn't need that, not tonight, huh? You've had enough of that."
Steve's voice was sliding into that other mode, and Bucky didn't resist or pull away when Steve tucked Jamesy's marble into his hand. He closed his grip around it and let out a shaky breath against Steve's jacket.
"Come on, little man," Steve said softly. "Let's get you undressed for the night, huh?"
Jamesy pressed closer, his face hidden in the scratchy wool of Mister--Captain's jacket.
Captain hugged him close, rubbing his back, and then walked him backward, all but carrying him until he felt the bed meet the backs of his legs. Jamesy sat and reached for the buttons of his new blue jacket, only to be stopped by the marble still clutched in his fist.
"You let me get that, little boy," Captain murmured.
"Thanks, Mis--Captain," Jamesy whispered, his voice coming out very small and hollow.
"Hey," Captain tugged Jamesy's chin up with one finger, and Jamesy bit his lip. "We don't have to stand on that much ceremony here, pal. I'm your grownup friend, but I'm still your friend, same as always. You don't have to call me anything different than you always did. I know we're a long way from home, but things haven't really changed for us, have they?"
Jamesy shook his head, his eyes prickling with tears of gratitude. It was almost like he wasn't far from home at all, not if he was still him and Mister was still Mister, same as ever.
"Thanks, Mister," he managed, not quite letting out a sob on the words.
Mister kissed his forehead and made soft shushing sounds as he helped Jamesy out of his blue jacket and the shirt under it, and the threatening feeling of tears faded. This was just plain familiar and good, and Jamesy started to look forward to playing with his grownup friend just like they always did.
Mister took off Jamesy's belt and his boots and pants while Jamesy curled restlessly on the strange soft hotel bed. He turned away to fold everything up neatly, leaving Jamesy in just his shorts.
Jamesy huffed at Mister's forgetfulness and started to wriggle and push them down with his free hand. "Mister, you forgot these."
Mister looked over his shoulder and snorted, shaking his head a little. "Is that what I did, pal? Or are you too impatient for me to get to them when I meant to?"
Jamesy froze. If he'd been naughty, if he'd annoyed Mister, or ruined his plan, then--
Mister came over and kissed his nose and his cheek, tugging his shorts the rest of the way off. "I know you're just excited, pal. It's been a long time, hasn't it? Now can you get under the covers for me while I get undressed?"
Jamesy nodded obediently and tugged the covers back, sliding into bed and tugging the blankets to his chin while he watched Mister. He got his own clothes off a lot quicker than he'd done Jamesy's, tossing them loosely over the back of a chair instead of folding them up nice and neat.
He only got a brief look at Mister between him getting all his clothes off and coming over to climb into bed beside Jamesy. It was just enough to see how amazing he was, big and strong like something out of a Charles Atlas cartoon.
Mister snuggled close to him, pulling Jamesy to his chest with those big muscled arms, and all Jamesy could think was how amazing it was that this was his very own grownup friend. Mister could be with anybody tonight and he was here with Jamesy, even though he was little and needed ever so much looking after.
His eyes prickled with silly tears again, and he twisted in Mister's grip, hiding his face against Mister's bare chest. He got distracted almost right away, though, because there was such a lot of bare chest there.
Jamesy rubbed his nose against golden skin, feeling the firm swell of muscle behind it, and felt Mister's low rumbling laugh. Then Mister started tickling at Jamesy's sides, and Jamesy cautiously tickled back. Before long he was giggling helplessly, squirming all over the bed and throwing the covers everywhere.
Finally Mister caught him close again, hushing him. He kept on wriggling and giggling and poking at Mister, until Mister caught Jamesy's hand in his, holding him still.
"Hush, now," Mister said firmly. "I should've known better than to let you get all riled up, but it's getting late. A little boy like you needs to be sleeping soon, or you'll be ten kinds of sore about waking up tomorrow."
"I won't," Jamesy promised, wriggling a little more against Mister's big body just to feel the warmth of it and all that sleek skin.
"Sure you won't," Mister said, but he didn't sound annoyed, just shifted his grip from Jamesy's hand down to Jamesy's stiff little peashooter. "Don't guess you need any help getting to sleep, then, do you?"
"Ohh." Jamesy went carefully still. "I guess. Yes, please, mister?"
"Yes, please, huh." Mister squeezed. "Aren't you polite all of a sudden, pal?"
Jamesy nodded vigorously, only pressing his bottom back a little bit against Mister's cock, which felt as big and hard as the rest of him against Jamesy's smallness. "I could help you, too, mister. I'm good at helping."
"Oh, I know you are," Mister said, putting one hand firmly on Jamesy's hip. "But one thing at a time, pal. I'll help you first, and then you can help me."
Jamesy made an impatient little sound. He was big enough to do both at once; he'd taken Mister's cock plenty of times before. He was five and a half, after all.
But maybe... maybe Mister was going easy on him tonight. No punishment when he did things out of order, but then none of the kind of bed-games that only big boys could play, either.
Mister's hand started moving slowly on Jamesy's little shooter, easy and good without even trying, and Jamesy thought maybe he didn't mind Mister going easy on him tonight. He melted a little into his grownup friend's grip, sighing out, "Thanks, mister."
"You're welcome, pal," Mister murmured, kissing his ear and the ticklish spot on his throat, his hand still moving slow and sweet on Jamesy. "Now you're getting it, huh? All ready to sleep in this nice big bed with me?"
Jamesy nodded, though he was starting to not feel sleepy at all as the pleasure of Mister's touch built. "Y-yes, Mister. I will, promise."
"Mmm," Mister kissed his ear again. "You gonna be good and patient, this time? Let me take my time and not try to rush things?"
"Ohhh," Jamesy said, without even meaning to. Maybe Mister wasn't going so easy on him after all; maybe he hadn't quite escaped being punished for being too much in a hurry earlier.
Mister's hand slowed nearly to a stop. "What was that, little boy?"
"I will," Jamesy promised. "I'll be good, Mister, I'll be so--" Mister's hand was moving, maybe a tiny bit faster than before. "So, so good, mister, I'll be the best boy, I promise, I promise, I'll--"
"Shh," Mister's hand was moving steadily now, making Jamesy's breath go ragged and fast. "I know, sweet boy. You're always my best little boy, aren't you? So good and brave for me, so sweet and helpful and--"
Jamesy gasped softly, struggling to keep still and quiet even when Mister's voice was just noise in his ears over the rushing of his blood. The pleasure of Mister's touch built up and up until it spilled over inside him. And outside, all over Mister's fingers, as he found when he opened his eyes again at the feeling of Mister sitting up to grab a handkerchief.
"I can help," Jamesy mumbled, catching Mister's hand and taking little kitten-licks at the mess he'd made, cleaning it up bit by bit. All the time he could feel Mister's big cock pressed hard against him, but Mister didn't rush Jamesy any more than he'd allowed Jamesy to rush him.
Jamesy felt good now, all warm and taffy-soft and sweet, but he knew better than to just curl up and go to sleep. He wouldn't be any kind of friend to his grownup friend if he did that.
"Here, Mister," he said, letting go of Mister's cleaned-up hand and turning in his grip. "Now I can help you proper."
"That so? Looks to me like you can't even keep your eyes open, pal."
"Can so," Jamesy said immediately, opening his eyes wide just to see the laughing light in Mister's eyes. It shot right through him, like Mister had given him an injection of love and happiness and home. "Anyhow, I don't need my eyes open to help."
He closed his hand on Mister's cock and made a little startled noise. He'd forgotten that it had gotten bigger with the rest of his grownup friend.
"It's okay if you need to use both hands, pal," Mister said, a little of that laugh in his voice as well as his eyes. "I know you're just a little boy."
Jamesy gave a huff, but he obeyed Mister's suggestion and used both hands. He tried to go slow, but Mister squeezed him and gave him such kisses all over his face, and it was just too much fun to make his grownup friend's breathing go all funny and watch his face turn pink. Jamesy was grinning and giggling by the time Mister went still and his great big cock spurted all over both of Jamesy's hands.
Mister opened his eyes and they were crossed, like Jamesy had driven him right around the bend with the just the touch of his little boy hands, and Jamesy giggled harder.
"I'll fix it, Mister," he finally managed to say, and pressed a kiss to the end of Mister's nose. When he tipped his head back, sure enough, Mister's eyes followed him just like normal, all blue and sparkling and happy behind heavy lids.
"And I guess I'd better fix this, huh," Mister said, tugging up Jamesy's hands, all spattered and sticky.
Mister licked them clean, just like Jamesy had cleaned Mister's hand. The feeling of it made Jamesy go all shivery, his breath catching and his little peashooter twitching.
"Hush, now," Mister murmured, folding Jamesy close to himself again and squeezing him tight. "That's enough of that for now. We're supposed to be getting you to sleep, remember?"
Jamesy thought of protesting, insisting that he still needed more help to get to sleep, but he didn't, really. Although...
"Mister?" he whispered. "I'm sorry if I have bad dreams tonight and wake you up."
"Oh, Jamesy." Mister kissed his head, again and again. "If you do I'll be right here with you, pal. It's okay. I don't mind helping you with that, either. And you'll help me if I have bad dreams, won't you?"
Jamesy couldn't imagine that that would really happen--how could there be anything in the world that would make his big strong grownup friend feel as small and trapped as Jamesy felt sometimes, struggling out of his bad dreams? But he wrapped his arms over Mister's where they held him and said, as stoutly as he could through a yawn, "Course I will, mister. We're pals. We help each other."
"We sure do, Jamesy," Mister said softly. "You're a help to me all the time, even when you don't know it. Where'd I ever find such a good boy as you to be my friend, huh?"
"Oh," Jamesy murmured. Mister asked him that lots of times, and he didn't mind when Jamesy made up funny, silly stories about where Mister found him. But tonight, half asleep, Jamesy couldn't think to say anything but the truth. "Don't you remember, Mister? You stole me from the Krauts."
Mister just squeezed him tighter and kissed his head again, and Jamesy fell asleep like that, safe at home with his grownup friend.